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Manopubbangama dhamma
manosettha manomaya
manasa ce padutthena
bhasati va karoti va
tato nam dukkhamanveti
cakkamva vahato padam.

Mind precedes all knowables,
mind’s their chief, mind-made are they.
If with a corrupted mind
one should either speak or act
dukkha follows caused by that,
as does the wheel the ox’s hoof.

Explanation

All that we experience begins with thought. Our words and deeds spring from thought. If we speak or act with evil thoughts, unpleasant circumstances and experiences inevitably result. Wherever we go, we create bad circumstances because we carry bad thoughts. This is very much like the wheel of a cart following the hoofs of the ox yoked to the cart. The cart-wheel, along with the heavy load of the cart, keeps following the draught oxen. The animal is bound to this heavy load and cannot leave it.

The Story of Thera Cakkhupala

While residing at the Jetavana monastery in Savatthi, the Buddha uttered Verse (1) of this book, with reference to Cakkhupala, a blind thera.

On one occasion, Thera Cakkhupala came to pay homage to the Buddha at the Jetavana monastery. One night, while pacing up and down in meditation, the thera accidentally stepped on some insects. In the morning, some bhikkhus visiting the thera found the dead insects. They thought ill of the thera and reported the matter to the Buddha. The Buddha asked them whether they had seen the thera killing the insects. When they answered in the negative, the Buddha said, “Just as you had not seen him killing, so also he had not seen those living insects. Besides, as the thera had already attained arahatship he could have no intention of killing and so was quite innocent.” On being asked why Cakkhupala was blind although he was an arahat, the Buddha told the following story:

Cakkhupala was a physician in one of his past existences. Once, he had deliberately made a woman patient blind. That woman had promised him to become his slave, together with her children, if her eyes were completely cured. Fearing that she and her children would have to become slaves, she lied to the physician. She told him that her eyes were getting worse when, in fact, they were perfectly cured. The physician knew she was deceiving him, so in revenge, he gave her another ointment, which made her totally blind. As a result of this evil deed the physician lost his eyesight many times in his later existences.

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 1: All mental phenomena have mind as their forerunner; they have mind as their chief; they are mind-made. If one speaks or acts with an evil mind, ‘dukkha’ follows him just as the wheel follows the hoofprint of the ox that draws the cart.

At the end of the discourse, thirty thousand bhikkhus attained arahatship together with Analytical Insight (Patisambhida).

 

Sources:

Verses and Stories by Burma Pitaka Association (The Dhammapada)

Treasury of truth (Image Source)